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(Yvonne Berg/Copyright Yvonne Berg 2008)
(Yvonne Berg/Copyright Yvonne Berg 2008)

Usual Suspects

Ryder Cup puts Wales on the map Add to ...

Caerleon, Wales -- The Scots have had their day as media darlings. The Irish, too. But it's been a long time since Wales was too cool for school. No fear, lovers of the leek and Brains beer. Sir Terry Matthews, the Ottawa tech magnate who built the home Twenty Ten course for this week's Ryder Cup, is determined that this event will make the Welsh into a hot media property.

"Wherever I go on business... Beijing, Delhi, Singapore, Cairo Beijing, Rome... everywhere I go they all know the Ryder Cup," Matthews told Usual Suspects on Wednesday at the course north of Newport, Wales. "It's the third biggest spectator event on the planet. Newport, Cardiff, Wales... a country of three million people... who is that?

"Now they know who they are, because of the Ryder Cup. It put Wales on the map. They're talking about a billion people watching the Ryder Cup on television." That's good news for this economically challenged part of Britain - which is riveted by the election of new Labour leader Ed Miliband over his older brother David and what it will mean to this area that depends on government.

Matthews says the economic woes of Britain haven't made much of an impression on the massive Celtic Manor Resort perched high above the valley here or on his tournament. "The Celtic Manor is the No. 1 rated conference centre in the UK," says the Mitel chairman. "We're always full. The Ryder Cup itself is different from most tournaments because it's done as a lottery in advance. You don't say, 'will people come?' Because the tickets are all sold before the event. It was 9-to-one oversubscribed for tickets. So that was no worry."

Media are notorious grumblers when it comes to large events such as the Ryder Cup. And there are the usual complaints about logistics and infrastructure. But Matthews says many of the kinks were worked out before. "This facility has now run three Wales Opens before Ryder Cup came here. We needed to do that to understand what needed to be done. And we think we've done it."

Alliss Fair In Love: No international golf event would be complete without the droll jabs and dulcet observations of the BBC's Peter Alliss. So imagine our pleasure to see the famous Englishman perched on a sofa in the Ryder Cup media area. With the departure of ABC from the networks covering golf, Alliss is now just an infrequent feature on North American screens. If Alliss is perturbed, however, he's not showing it.

"I got into TV in 1961 at the age of 30," he says as a stream of well wishers pass by. "And for all those years I've just been a spectator. I talk about what I see. It's very simple. Some of these fellows come to the booth with stacks of statistics (he holds his hand at eyebrow height). But I prefer simply to commentate on what I see. I always work directly off the monitor because if the audience can't see it, it doesn't really matter, does it?"

Alliss was brought to the attention of American audiences when IMG founder Mark McCormack decided to add a little British to the British Open. Since then, his trenchant wit has endeared him to many. "I never socialize with the players," the 79-year old says. "My old colleague Dave Marr, who I admired, was always in the clubhouse, having lunch with the players. But I've stayed away from it. It makes it easier to say what I want. I don't criticize. I just say what I see."

The man who turned pro at the age of 16 says that you can't always be sure who will work on TV. "I would have thought Lee Trevino would have made an excellent announcer. But Lee didn't want to say anything bad about anyone. Very surprising." Alliss is sometimes surprised at the reaction he gets from Americans hearing his broadcast. "Americans don't really seem to appreciate irony. I'll say something in jest and then I'll have to say, 'No, no... I was only being funny'."

As for this weekend's action, Alliss says the course sets up well for the bombers on the American side. But the overriding story for him is the weather, which promises to be damp. "It's just no fun in the rain. The course is draining well, but we're right beside the water and you've got the wind. Hopefully it won't be like the K Club in Ireland (2006) where it rained all the time." Oh, Alliss thinks that if the rookies on the two sides cancel each other out, the Europeans will win. Good enough for us.

Zinger Holds Court: Speaking of TV personalities, victorious 2008 American captain Paul Azinger, here for ESPN, was holding court in one corner of the massive media room. Wisely, the affable Azinger is careful to say nothing that will be construed as criticism of current American captain Corey Pavin.

Like most, Azinger has no idea what will happen when Tiger Woods tees it up - likely with Steve Stricker - in an expected rainstorm on Friday. Like NBC's Johnny Miller, Azinger feels that if Woods wins his first match or two he's likely to play all the way through Sunday's singles matches. He also feels the U.S. needs a firebrand to ignite the American side the way Anthony Kim did at Valhalla. After being the Euros, an emotional Kim could be seen telling his captain, "I told you I'd kick their ass."

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